The cartoon image of an account manager is a dapper fellow dressed in a Savile Row suit and Church’s wingtips. With his Burberry tie in a Windsor knot and scarf in his jacket pocket, he is there to mollify, pacify, and otherwise make the client happy by listening with a careful ear to any complaint and issue.
Account managers are good at what they do, because their skill is communication. They tend to understand people. The account manager is a tool: when trouble is brewing, send in the communicator.
Obama does this. When there is trouble afoot, off goes Vice-President Joe Biden. Sometimes it’s diplomacy, sometimes it’s to castigate or bully. Obama dispatched Biden to Ecuador last month where the grey-haired gentleman told President Correa that if he provided political asylum for Edward Snowden, he would find his oil exports to the USA curtailed or cutoff. Ecuador changed course. Of course one cannot bully the customer, but the point is that a diplomat is needed to contain the most difficult issues.
Client communication is key to set expectations and address issues. Yet, not all communication takes place at the executive level. Yet without executive input to the project, the project can find itself without a sponsor who can make change across the organization.
Developers, testers, and particularly project managers want to be in meetings where decisions are made too. There is a need to engage everyone throughout the reporting structure.
The traditional means of reporting to the clientStatus Reports—groan - Few like to write status reports, in part because they don’t believe anyone reads them. Depending on the project and client, this might very well be true. But when the client fusses about delay, the status report is there to document that any blocking issues or threats to the schedule have been relayed to the client.
Project Newsletter - it boosts morale to have one. It would be boring if there were no news or it was the same every month, so, if you can, get the project sponsor or customer to weigh in. The client and system integrator project team will be inspired when they hear from the boss. When the executive makes the case for the software in terms of profits for the company, employees listen. Developers rarely hear from customers. Having the customer explain what they seek to gain from the project boosts understanding all around.
Weekly Calls - these are interesting for junior and middle level developers on the project, because this helps keep them informed about the project budget, staffing and progress..
Bulletin Board - you can use a bulletin board with avatars standing in for project personnel to show who is working on what. At a glance the client can see progress as the avatars move across the board.
Client communications with the executives are best handled by the account manager, project manager, and director. This is the forum to raise issues; address concerns about scope, budget, and timelines; and discuss resources. The project team should be included in project-wide communications too, so that the whole team feels engaged.
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